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invitational workshop to examine these issues. The workshop, held in October 1997, focused on the challenges involved in designing and conducting research on lesbian health, some of the contextual issues that can make it more difficult to conduct such research, and lesbians' risk for particular health conditions including cancer, mental health problems, substance abuse, HIV infection, and sexually transmitted diseases. Lesbians' use of and access to health care services were also discussed. The workshop involved 21 invited speakers, public testimony from more than a dozen presenters, and approximately 50 interested members of the public who also participated in the discussion.
This report is based on the committee's deliberations and reflects its review and evaluation of the scientific literature on lesbian health and of information presented at the workshop. The committee's conclusions and recommendations, which are outlined here, are presented in detail in the full report. It is important to recognize that this is a workshop-study report with recommendations and that the committee's information gathering and deliberations were thus limited compared to those of a full IOM study.
The committee identified several important reasons for directing attention to the study of lesbian health issues:
To gain knowledge to improve the health status and health care of lesbians. Lesbians share many health risks and experiences in the health care system with women in general. For lesbians' health care to be both cost-effective and appropriate, the scope of their health problems must be better understood. Knowledge of areas in which the health of lesbians differs from that of other women may provide insights to improve the health of all women.
To confirm beliefs and to counter misconceptions about the health risks of lesbians. In the face of little empirical information, there are numerous beliefs, myths, and misconceptions about the health risks of lesbians that can affect their health outcomes. These beliefs are often shared both by health care providers and by lesbians themselves. Some of these beliefs may be true; others are not. These beliefs include perceptions that lesbians do not need regular Pap tests or routine gyneco-